New legislation to change teacher evaluations in Michigan

Posted at 11:45 AM, Dec 06, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-06 12:25:24-05
  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation that reduces the weight of standardized student test scores for teacher evaluations
  • The goal is to implement teacher growth and improvement-focused evaluation practices in Michigan school districts
  • This new evaluation system goes into effect starting in the 2024-2025 school year

(Transcript from full broadcast segment)

Teachers in Michigan will soon be evaluated under a different system, thanks to new legislation passed in Lansing last month.

The two-bill package was signed into law by Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November and will reduce the weight of student test scores for teacher evaluations, and now put more weight on classroom observation, goal setting, and performance reviews.

"These bills are improvement focused, where it gives principals and teachers new to the profession a mentor," said Dr. Lara Dixon, director of Educator Preparation and Accreditation at the Michigan State University College of Education. "It gives them the opportunity to have timely feedback and agency so that those who need it the most (those who are new or are struggling) can have the time and the support."

Dr. Dixon told me that current teacher evaluations are based 40% on student's standardized test scores, under the new law, that will drop to 20 percent.

"Data is essential in teaching, but the data that we need is, how are my students doing right now, and how do I change what I'm doing right now to make sure all of them are learning, and to what level are they learning and, who needs more help," Dixon said. "The test scores are an endpoint that don't correlate to what's happening every day."

The new system evaluates a teacher's performance by placing them within three categories; "effective," "developing," or "needing support." If a teacher receives a "needing support" rating, they will now receive individualized development plans to help them improve. This includes direct mentorship. For a teacher to be dismissed for performance issues, they would have to fall into the "needing support" category three years in a row.

The bill narrowly passed along party lines in the Democratic lead senate.

However, opponents like state Senator Ruth Johnson, who is a former teacher, says the legislation doesn't take into account students who have fallen behind in their grade levels, saying Michigan's 4th grader reading test scores have dropped significantly over the last three years.

"There does need to be accountability, and you can't just disregard student progress in evaluating a teacher's performance. That's absurd to me," said Johnson.

"Instead of passing bills designed to help our kids read, the Democrats and the Legislature (it was a party-line vote) passed a bill for the unions that says you don't even have to use the scores if you don't want to. Just ignore how our kids are doing, if they're progressing, or if they're learning."

Governor Whitmer signed the bills into law in November, and schools will need to implement the new teacher evaluation system for the 2024-2025 school year.

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